Publicis buys into UK design

Design consultancy SAS will form the nucleus of an expanding Publicis Consultants network, following its outright acquisition by French marketing services network Publicis on Monday night.

The move will be heralded by many as proof of design’s value in the rapidly changing world of brand communications.

SAS managing director Jeremy Sice will take over the management of the UK side of Publicis Consultants, working along its worldwide chief executive Eric Giuily. Sice has a remit to grow the wider UK operation, now worth more than £10m in combined turnover.

‘A lot of the deals we’ve seen recently have been about making money,’ says Sice, ‘but this is about genuinely changing the way we work.’

The London network will employ just under 100 people and will sit alongside Publicis Consultants hubs in Paris and Amsterdam. Further expansion in the UK and overseas is on the cards.

Publicis Consultants will act as an umbrella organisation, regrouping the 60-strong SAS business with the London arms of branding and packaging group Carré Noir, ad agency Masius and Publicis Consultants PR. Added to them will be the corporate communications and internal communications strengths of SAS. The aim is for Publicis Consultants to offer a ‘holistic, audience-led approach’, claims Sice, who says the offer won’t be ‘media-led’ but ‘audience driven’.

Some, such as Harvest Consulting founder Jim Surguy, question the strategic fit of the businesses. ‘I can’t immediately see the logic of the strategic fit of the groups, though it would make sense for Publicis to tidy up its loose ends,’ he says. ‘That said, I do see the logic of looking to Jeremy Sice to strengthen the management tiers in this way.’

In response, Sice says, ‘Wesee synergies from the fact that there is no crossover between what any of the businesses do, they are very complementary.’ In terms of day-to-day client work, Sice says the businesses will continue operating as they do now, using existing names from current premises, and with no management changes and no redundancies.

SAS – the deal:
• SAS sold 100% of the business to Publicis for an undisclosed initial payment, followed by future performance-related payments over three years
• SAS results for 2005 indicate a turnover of £5.48m with pre-tax profits of £488 330. Assuming profits have grown substantially since then, estimates value the deal at between £8m and £10m
• The Sarbanes-Oxley Act prevents disclosure of the deal’s terms

Publicis Consultants – the offer:
• Multi-specialist network inside the Specialised Agencies & Marketing Services arm of Publicis
• Project approach will be ‘audience-led’, not ‘media-led’
• Backed by advertising, PR and design facilities

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